Christians grieved at deaths in Police firing on Gujjars in Rajasthan
Collapse of governance a threat to national integrity and security; Governments need to respect Identity of communities, ensure Equity
[The following is the text of the joint Press Statement issued by Dr Joseph D Souza, President of the All India Christian Council, and Dr John Dayal, Member of the National Integration Council, Government of India, President of the All India Catholic Union, and Secretary General of the All India Christian Council]
The Christian community in the country is deeply grieved at the loss of life of innocent persons in the police firing on members of the Gujjar tribe in the border state of Rajasthan.
This deep tragedy follows close on the heels of the Andhra Pradesh police firing in Hyderabad on Muslim victims of a bomb blast, and on the farm labour of Nandigram in West Bengal. The immediate provocation in each case is different. What is common is an absence of governance at the grassroots, and a trigger happy police. In Andhra, the Chief Minister immediately apologised. In Bengal, the Chief Minister withdrew the appropriation of farm land for Special Economic Zones, which had precipitated the resistance movement. In Rajasthan, the chief minister is yet to show that she is concerned. In Punjab earlier, the state chief minister and his government also chose to remain quiescent while mobs ruled the roads venting their anger at another denomination.
The situation is the most serious in Rajasthan. In fact it is fast aggravating because political elements in control of the government are trying to put various people groups against each other to divert attention from policy failure. The BJP government in Rajasthan has encouraged and deepened the divide between groups, as the party did in Punjab where it is a partner in the ruling coalition.
The nation seems sundered on the issue of reservations in education and employment for various castes and tribes – a Constitutional guarantee to create a level playing for people who, after millennia of oppression and suppression under the caste system would, otherwise, not have been able to enjoy the development opportunities in Independent India. Instead of explaining the necessity of affirmative action, the Governments, particularly those professing a monopolistic religious and cultural ideology, have repeatedly changed the rules to the disadvantage of the people. Christians of Schedule Caste origins were denied their rights, as were Muslims by limiting affirmative action to just one religion.
In the case of tribals, there has been pernicious manipulation to reduce the presence of some groups, for instance Oraons and other tribals professing Christianity in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh by deliberately extending such benefits to a few favoured groups loyal to their ideology. The Gujjars are victims of the same manipulation. In fact, Governments should assure the people that the cake is large enough, and that everyone benefits and no one suffers when disadvantaged people are given a life-line.
We call upon the government to show a sincere effort at reconciliation and peace through honest discussions with the leaders of the Gujjars.
We also call upon the governments of Rajasthan, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh to extend appropriate financial compensation to the families of those killed in police firing, and alternate employment to the maimed. This is also the time to evolve a national policy on compensation in these cases, instead of the shameful disparities that exist between states, and in the case of Gujarat, between victims depending on their religion. India’s stigma of making difference between communities and religions must not be extended into death.
Released to the Media
A Coalition birthed in 1998 to Protect and Serve the Christian community, Minorities and the Oppressed classes